Probating During COVID-19

April 20, 2020
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger


The March 16, 2020 declaration of a statewide judicial emergency has dramatically reduced the functions of the Lancaster County Courthouse. This declaration has also closed the Lancaster County Register of Wills, effectively halted the probating of any wills in Lancaster County. Consequently, all estates requiring probate have been in a holding pattern.  

For more information on the other implications of the judicial emergency, check out this article on the closure of the courts by Laura E. McGarry.  

Thankfully, relief is on the way for some who are probating during COVID-19.

Video conferencing for emergency circumstances

As of April 14, 2020, Judge Ashworth issued an order authorizing — but not requiring — the Register of Wills to administer oaths via video conference relating to 

  • the grant of letters of estate administration and 
  • marriage licenses

However, the courts are currently suffering from a large backlog and significant staff shortage. It seems, therefore, that the courts are only processing estates and marriage licenses with emergency circumstances.  

What we can do for new estates

As new estates are coming into our offices, we are working with clients to determine if emergency circumstances exist. Where they do not, we are working on transferring assets that do not require a short certificate and preparing petitions for those that do.

That way, we will be ready to proceed as 

  • the video conferencing becomes more readily available or 
  • the Register of Wills reopens to the public.  

We will continue to update clients as new information becomes available.

If you have a loved one who has recently passed and have questions about how this shutdown impacts your situations, contact  Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP to discuss your options with one of our attorneys. Although we have closed our physical office, our virtual office is open for business.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning and Estate Administration.